Canada says third citizen detained in China amid diplomatic row

The case of the third Canadian detained in China is different than the first two, says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

He said he was asking China for more information on the detentions. "We're now looking at them".

The government declined to provide more details, but opposition Conservative lawmaker Erin O'Toole said the case involves an Alberta woman who has been teaching in China for months and has indeed been held over a visa irregularity.

Canada's decision on whether to allow Huawei Technologies Co. access to its next-generation wireless network won't be a political one, Justin Trudeau said.

Former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Calgary-born entrepreneur Michael Spavor were earlier arrested by the Chinese authorities for "endangering" national security.

Consular officials are providing assistance to the detainee's family, Global Affairs Canada said.

While no link between the latest arrest and the first two has yet been established, the arrests are widely seen as retaliation for the detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at a Vancouver airport December 1.

"In the short term, in the next couple of months, I would try to cease any operations in China", she said Thursday.

Canadian teacher Sarah McIver
Canadian teacher Sarah McIver

Observers say Canada is increasingly looking like collateral damage in a simmering US-China trade war, with Beijing at the same time working to ease trade tensions with Washington.

All 3 arrests follow the detention of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on December 1 in Vancouver on a United States request. She is awaiting extradition proceedings in Canada as she is wanted for fraud by the USA.

Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were both taken into custody in China shortly after the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, at the request of the U.S., in Vancouver on 1 December. The International Crisis Group, where Kovrig serves as North East Asia adviser, also had strong words for Beijing in its most recent statement: "Michael's arrest is unjust".

Trudeau said during a news conference Wednesday he does not believe the third detention of a Canadian has any ties to the other cases, calling it "a very separate case".

Bob Rae, Canada's special envoy to Myanmar and a former Liberal Party leader, tweeted yesterday that "there are no coincidences" and said the detentions look "too much like hostage taking". Australia and New Zealand have effectively banned Huawei from their grids, while the U.K and Germany are being pressed to follow suit over concerns the gear could be exploited by China's spy agencies.

McIver's safe return would defuse what would have put additional strain on an already tense relationship between Canada and China, which was shaken by Canada's arrest of a Chinese tech executive December 1. Meng had been arrested at the request of the US, which wants her extradited to face allegations that she violated trade sanctions the country imposed against Iran.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called last Friday for China to release the Canadians, saying their detention was "unlawful" and "unacceptable".

But the spokesperson reportedly did not make a link between the detention and Meng's arrest.

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